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News + PoliticsPlan that could lead to massive displacement moves forward,...

Plan that could lead to massive displacement moves forward, quietly

A proposal that could rival the forced relocations of the discredited Redevelopment Era is headed for City Hall approvals — with very little news media scrutiny

This snapshot of part of the Planning Department's map shows the wide swath of housing (in blue) that could be torn down and replaced with larger units
This snapshot of part of the Planning Department’s map shows the wide swath of housing (in blue) that could be torn down and replaced with larger units

By Tim Redmond

DECEMBER 21, 2015 — Under the guise of creating more affordable housing, the Mayor’s Office is proposing a plan that could lead to the greatest wave of displacement since the Redevelopment era of the 1950s. And other than excellent stories from People Power Media and sfbay.ca, it’s gotten very little in-depth news media attention.

The program is called the Affordable Housing Density Bonus plan, and it has its roots in both state law and a 2013 court decision in Napa County.

But in the end, this will be a local decision – and the plan is almost breathtaking in its scope. It is, critics say, a return to the failed policies of an earlier era, when tearing down homes and businesses in the name of improvement was official federal, state, and local policy.

“No matter how you look at this, it’s the Redevelopment model,” said Peter Cohen, co-director of the Council of Community Housing Organizations. “And that model didn’t work.”

A careful analysis of the proposed bill, which is still getting revised, shows:

This graphic from People Power Media shows some of the neighborhoods that will be impacted
This graphic from People Power Media shows some of the neighborhoods that will be impacted

  • More than 30,000 units of housing – and all of the corner stores, restaurants, and community-serving small businesses located on the first floors below them – are potentially targets for demolition. The law encourages property owners to turn smaller buildings into bigger ones by adding stories – and the only practical way for that to happen is if existing buildings are torn down.
  • The plan put tens of thousands of units of rent-controlled housing – the most important affordable housing in the city for working class and middle-class people – at risk. In a flashback to the worst era of Redevelopment, the planners say people thrown out on the streets when their homes are torn down would have the right to return later – but there’s no clean plan to give them affordable homes in the meantime, and all the evidence shows that “right of return” doesn’t work: Tenants who are displaced for years wind up leaving the area forever.
  • The right to construct taller buildings doesn’t really create much in the way of new affordable housing, since the developers can count the replacement units that were there in the first place toward their “affordable” responsibility.
  • The new taller buildings will be able to block sunlight in any existing back yard, as long as it isn’t a public park. For those tens of thousands of San Franciscans who use their small yards to grow gardens, to sit outside, to have barbecues … there is no protection from construction that ends your access to sunlight.
  • Oh, and the new rules would pretty much end public input into neighborhood planning, since most of the new projects would be exempt from the normal hearing and appeal process.
  • There is no credible process to protect existing small neighborhood businesses from wholesale displacement, meaning the plan could transform dozens of local commercial districts.

It’s a gigantic change in planning policy, driven by the idea that the city of the future has to be built by destroying the city of the past. In essence, the proposal is aimed at making San Francisco a better, and possibly more affordable, city for people who are going to move here in the future, at the expense of existing residents.

“It’s a demolition and displacement machine,” longtime housing advocate Calvin Welch told me.


The proposal has its roots in state law, a 2013 court ruling, and the desire of Mayor Ed Lee to build more affordable housing without putting out more public money.

In essence, the idea is to allow developers to add as many as two stories above what current zoning would allow if they agree to provide additional affordable housing.

The number of parcels involved is massive, and includes much of the eastern side of the city and large swaths along transit corridors on the west side.

But the actual levels of affordable housing that would be added are fairly minor. The city’s plan would allow the “bonus” – which also includes concessions for larger bulk, smaller backyards, and less parking – if 30 percent of the units are “affordable.”

But the city already requires 12 percent affordability, and that number may go up next year, as both the Mayor’s Office and some supervisors are talking about increasing it. So it’s an extra 18 percent – and that can be so-called “middle income” housing.

“Most of the housing,” a set of questions posed by the Council of Community Housing Organizations notes, “will be studios and one-bedrooms priced for individuals earning $86,000 to $100,000 a year. … By comparison, a [San Francisco public school] teacher earns between $49,000 (entry) and $68,000 (after ten years).”

Potentially, some of the housing could go to people with incomes as high as $150,000 a year. So the developers aren’t losing all that much in exchange for their increased density.

In its presentations to the Planning Commission and the public, the Planning Department points to a number of “soft sites” that would benefit from the program. Those are lots that are currently vacant, or have old gas stations or other uses that are increasing converted to housing.

But there aren’t 30,000 soft sites left in the city, so the vast majority of the places eligible for this bonus are places where there’s already existing housing. Which means that for the program to work and create new housing, many of those buildings would have to be torn down and replaced with larger ones.

And in nearly every case, there are people already living in those buildings.


So one of the key elements of this proposal centers on how you deal with the inevitable displacement of thousands of current residents.

I asked the Planning Department’s spokesperson, Gina Simi, to explain how the legislation would protect existing tenants. Her response:

There are several additions to the requirements that are still being determined. However, in all cases, the rent control unit would be replaced by a [Below Market Rate] or permanently affordable housing unit that is monitored by [the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development] — as are all existing inclusionary units. Income qualified tenants would be charged no more than 30 percent of their income for housing.

That’s a fascinating approach that is very different from current rent-control policy (and it’s an interesting twist on the idea of building housing for the “middle class.” Rent control in San Francisco has never been means-tested. BMR housing is restricted to people who earn within a certain band of income: Too low and you don’t qualify as able to pay the rent, too high and you are ineligible.

So, for example, if rent-controlled units occupied by middle-class families are replaced with BMR units, those families might not qualify to move back into their own homes.

And there’s nothing in the plan that addresses the size of the new units. Developers would be encouraged to build a certain percentage of two-bedroom units, but those apartments could be far smaller than the existing apartments.

Sup. London Breed told me she has introduced an amendment that would exempt rent-controlled housing from the program for one year, while Planning studies all of this. (UPDATE: The amendment, her office says, would apply for one year or until Planning and the Supes adopt a plan to protect rent control and existing tenants). But in the long-term, it’s a key piece of the puzzle: If rent-controlled units are off the table, the plan would be a lot more palatable to tenant groups, but would also be far more limited in scope.

In earlier discussions, Planning talked about requiring that rent-controlled units be replaced with new rent-controlled units. That’s not going to work: State law bars rent control in buildings constructed after 1979, and besides, unless the city found a way to ensure that the new units were rented at the same rent as the old ones (again, state law doesn’t allow that) the new units would start off at market rate.

Then there’s the problem of housing existing residents during the period (likely of at least a year) while the old place is torn down and the new one is built.

The record of past redevelopment efforts is clear: Most displaced residents are never able to move back. In fact, if you’re living in a rent-controlled place today, and you have to move out while it’s being rebuilt, it’s almost certain the you won’t be able to afford temporary replacement housing anywhere in the city.

How does the city plan to address that? From Simi:

As drafted, displaced renters would be afforded the same relocation benefits that currently exist.

The law says that a building can be torn down and the tenants evicted with nothing more than “proper notice” to those residents.

However, she said,

the Department has been working with tenant advocates to explore ways to enhance these benefits, including:

right to return

required relocation assistance – i.e., requiring that the Project Sponsor help locate a new unit for the household

relocation costs and rental assistance


The current version includes only existing relocation fees, which are only a few thousand dollars and would barely pay for a moving truck, much less the first-last-and-security requirement for a new apartment.

Right to return is nice – but not if the tenants are forced to move out of town, and out of the region, find new jobs, and resettle in another community because they are priced out. And asking the project sponsor to “help locate a new unit” is pretty much a farce as long as those units, at the price existing rent-controlled tenants are paying, don’t exist.

So that brings up rental assistance – and it would have to be a large amount of money. Sup. David Campos tried to get that kind of assistance for people facing Ellis Act evictions, but the courts threw it out.

Let’s take, say, a family of four living in the three-bedroom flat in the Mission, or Noe, or the Castro. They’ve been there 20 years, and are paying $2,000 a month rent.

Demolish that unit, and even if you did build a 3BR replacement (and very few of those will be built) where would that family go for the next year? The kids are in school here, and the parents have jobs here, and they’re part of the neighborhood and community – and a comparable place would be at least $8,000 a month at current rates.

Will the developer pay the $6,000 a month difference for the entire time of construction? That’s around $75,000. Will the courts allow that?

You see the problem here. There’s really no credible way to “relocate” tenants who are paying (and can only afford) well below market rates while their homes are torn down and rebuilt.

Let’s run the housing-benefit numbers. Take a three-story building with three flats, all under rent control. Let a developer turn it into five stories, of mostly smaller units; say you wind up with ten apartments instead of three.

The developer has to provide 30 percent affordability – but replacing the three units that were torn down counts toward that number. So all that builder has to do is put the existing number of affordable units into the building, and he or she gets seven new market-rate units in exchange.

That’s not an affordable housing density bonus. That’s a market-rate housing density bonus.

Simi told me that “the Department is looking into changing the requirements for the local program so that [replacing the existing units] are supplemental to the required percentage of affordable housing.”

If that doesn’t happen, the whole thing becomes something of a bad joke.


There’s another problem with demolishing buildings along transit routes and in central neighborhood corridors: Most of those areas have existing small businesses on the ground floor.

Among the areas where the new rules would apply are 23 neighborhood commercial districts.

There is no commercial rent control in California. There’s nothing in this law or state law the protects small businesses who face displacement – and for many, “relocation” is a death sentence.

You can’t relocate a neighborhood hardware store, or café, or corner market; they rely on the foot traffic in the existing neighborhood. Most of these businesses aren’t destination shops; move them out of their community and they lose their customer base.

And, of course, the types of older, smaller (and cheaper) properties that these businesses inhabit will likely be replaced with bigger, more expensive places that will attract an entirely different type of business.

So this could be brutal for neighborhood merchants – a constituency largely overlooked in the discussion so far.


The other thing this law would do is limit the ability of the public to demand a hearing on or object to demolition-and-replacement in many cases. Only where there are “voter approved” neighborhood plans would developers be required to come before the Planning Commission for a hearing. In most cases, getting a permit to build a taller edifice would be nothing more than a staff decision – that is, you show up at the Planning Department with the plans your architect signed off on, you pay your fee, and you get a permit.

Demolishing existing housing would require another permit – but that already happens all over the city, and has been happening (on a much smaller scale) for years. And remember: This entire program becomes nothing more than a minor deal resulting in a few hundred units a year unless existing property can be torn down on a massive scale.

Yes, if this plan goes forward and works the way the mayor and the Planning Department are presenting it, more housing will be built in San Francisco. Much of it will be beyond the reach of current residents, and many will be forced to leave – but new arrivals with high-paying jobs will have more options.

Property owners will have, Welch told me, “a huge incentive” to tear down rent-controlled buildings, since the potential profit will be high. (Again, think of our three-flat building that’s been under rent control for many years. Turn that into ten apartments, seven with no rent control, and the monthly income soars.)

The forced relocation of thousands of tenants, from all parts of the city, could totally transform the demographic makeup of San Francisco, on a scale that dwarfs what’s been happening in the past five years. It’s hard to imagine that the drafters of this law were unaware of those impacts.

Which raises the question: Is that really what they want?

The measure will come before the Planning Commission Jan. 28.


Please support us so we can continue calling attention to issues like these. 

Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.
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  1. Most of it’s been shot down, but the fact that it’s still getting discussed sense alarm bells. It should just go away. What’s the point of a map showing existing rent control properties, and small business commercial, purposely meant to target 1-3 story properties, if it’s now just going to apply to new construction. Are there even any empty lots on the map they cherry picked? Why go through all this?

  2. Oh look. Now this entire article is proven bullshit

    The recent amendments to the proposed AHBP includes language specifying that the program will only apply to new construction projects and explicitly excludes vertical additions to existing structures beyond their currently zoned height.

    And in response to concerns that the bonus height program could “create a financial incentive for [developers] to demolish existing sound housing stock, particularly older units protected by rent control, in order to build larger buildings,” Supervisor London Breed has proposed an amendment which would disallow any project that demolishes an exiting rent control from being allowed any bonus height, regardless of how many new affordable units would be built.

  3. Only if you have a love for freeways, noise and the polluted air around them. GGP was not the only place Caltrans wanted to run a freeway. They had an entire network planned – The Embarcadero Frwy would have gone all the way to the GG Bridge, San Jose Ave would have been a freeway into the central part of the City and Sunset Blvd also would have been a double decked freeway among several others planned. In order to build these freeways entire blocks of homes for miles would need to be torn down. Given the earthquake damage done to the Embarcadero and Central freeways in SF and the Nimitz in Oakland in 1989 one can only imagine the damage to an entire network 1960’s built double decked freeways in the City. The City is way better without them.

  4. I try to keep an open mind and hope that Tim will propose some solution that will solve the housing crisis other than build nothing or build with public money that will never come.

    But this is the article that proves to me that Tim is just shilling for the local property owner mafia. He wants you to think he’s a progressive but he wants to preserve the city for his millionaire property owner friends. He wants them to not just be able to sit on their million dollar houses. He wants them to make more and more money each year.

    And he wants them to be able to use their power as rich property owners to make the city meet their aesthetic demands. What a privilege it is to be white and own property in SF and be able to dictate how you want the city to look.

    Don’t be fooled because he uses words progressives use. Look at his actions: build nothing. Look at who he supports: the local ‘community’ groups who hide behind poor renters to as they talk about how they need to protect the values of their property.

    Don’t let Tim Redmond fool you. He’s a shill for the rich landowners of the city.

  5. Jerry Brown absconded funds for the Redevelopment Agency knowing he will have $billions to replace it from AB32 CO2 Cap and Trade profit.Some AB32 Funds are specifically earmarked for high density housing near public transportation as a cure for global warming.AB32 will eventually generate $12 billion a year.Only some will go to housing, but with that kind of money things will definitely change as planned.Yes it has been directed by UN Agenda 21 ,now renamed Agenda 30.
    Its a new world .

  6. You’re mistaken. The implication that SF has had a housing shortage for 40 years is laughable.

    And while there have been periods where building was popular, it was never because of a lack of surplus. We are seeing unprecedented inventory shortages. Whoever convinced you this has been going on for 40 years or even 20 years, is not to be trusted.

  7. SF has under built the required amount of housing to even sustain its population for the last 40 years. It’s been decades since SF built more housing than is needed.

  8. Skyscrapers require variances for reasons other than the height, and once again, here I have to tell someone this legislation isn’t merely about the height limit.

  9. Building new transit hub neighborhoods in the western side of SF by increasing infrastructure combined with incentives to increase density, using city land wisely, all work in other jurisdictions. Over time (decades), the lower density ‘gaps’ between the higher density neighborhoods can also be ‘filled’ with higher density housing if there is still demand.

    And yes, these plans have never haven’t been seriously proposed here because the objective here isn’t a livable city with increased population. No, the objective here is to feed the greed machine.

  10. “Freeze residential from over abundance”
    The most ridiculous thing I have ever seen on this blog. The place that hasn’t built enough housing for 40 years and which debates the slightest change in policy for years is going to have an over abundance?

  11. You do recognize that anything over 40 feet essentially requires a variance even if the site is zoned higher than that. Even skyscraper sites have to get approval for development over 40 feet in height.

  12. More people commute into SF for work than commute out of it for work. The suburbs have been bailing out SFs inability to build housing to support those who work there for decades. How does that fit into your narrative?

  13. “Exempt” and “expedited” …to start…..
    “ammend” the Procedures manual…..

    “no conditional use required”…..
    “priority processing”……
    “pre-vetted menu of incentives, concessions and waivers” and “exceptions”…..

    Nothing you’re claiming is in it, is in it.

    And most shocking, now that I’m scrutinizing it, there’s nothing to protect tenants against warehousing. What’s to stop an eviction based on proposed construction, and then have them change their mind, once the tenant is evicted?

  14. People: There is no doubt that this plan addresses more than 30,000 sites in the city. If there is no demolition and rebuilding, then the whole plan is pointless — there are only a handful of places that are now empty. I agree that rent control isn’t the perfect solution — not as long as the state mandates that controls come off when the unit is vacated. However, it does more for the middle class in SF than any plan to demolish and replace rent controlled housing will. And why, by the way, does SF have to become even more dense to solve the housing problems created by Peninsula communities that happily accept new giant tech offices for the tax dollars but build no housing at all and export their problem to us?

  15. I’m not confused at all. Have you read the proposal? I have. Show me where in the affordable housing bonus program where there would be the elimination of neighbor notification, discretionary review, hearings, historic survey, and environmental impact study. There is discussion of giving priority review for 100% affordable projects. That’s it. Here’s the document you should read before you comment further.

  16. You’re confused, and still unable to wrap your head around the fact that this is intending to change the process.

  17. Wrong. A project that complies with zoning rules and does not require a variance still requires neighbor notification, discretionary review, most likely multiple hearings, a historic survey if it’s more than 50 years old (which includes all rent controlled units except those built between 1975-1979), environmental impact study if more than 6 units, etc. Talk to someone who has built a project in SF or read about it here:

  18. You’re mistaken.
    Sure you keep reading in blogs about the process involved, but those are projects in need of variances, where the zoning doesn’t account for their projects already. This will change what’s allowed, and therefore will change the process.

    This program intends to change the entire master plan, and expedite, and incentivize, and REZONE, not just raise height limits.

  19. That’s just false. What you’re describing is generally known at “by right” zoning. No one is discussing “by right” zoning. In places like LA, if you’re zoned for 40 feet, then “by right” you can build to 40 feet. In San Francisco, that does not exist. Just because a site is zoned for 40 feet, you still have to go through the process I described. The changes being proposed here are, to stick with my example, are changing the 40 feet limit to 60 feet if you build affordable units. The process of getting a permit, discretionary review, appeals, etc. doesn’t change.

  20. Huh? I don’t see what your point is. “developers will be given incentives that equate to adding more units than the zone allows if they create a certain LARGE percentage of VERY affordable housing”. That’s what the article said, and then showed that when all is said and one, you’ll end with more market-rate units, less rent-controlled units, a few low income units, and some medium income units (i.e. not as affordable). Most of the blue zone has existing buildings. Why do you think they marked these parcels if they aren’t subject to this process, which would mean tearing them down?

  21. “Vertical Sprawl” is just…wow. I like to think I can caricature NIMBYs, but nothing I can do can best the real thing.

  22. What you’re describing is true today. Again, are you aware this whole discussion is about a total overhaul to the master plan which would write permitting into the codes where variances were required, and rezone for what’s impossible today? Under this plan many if not all of the hurdles you described would vanish, because the rezoning would permit it.

  23. Financial analysis report, here:

    “While many economists project continued growth in sales values and rental rates in the coming years, development revenues for the financial analysis are based on Winter 2014/Spring 2015 market values and have not been trended upwards to reflect improving future market conditions. However, in order to demonstrate feasibility, revenues are increased above these market values in some development scenarios.” (p. 4, under ‘revenues’). I can’t find any allowance for future higher prices in the document.

    Land costs are figured into the spreadsheets at the end of the report (“Exhibit 1”).

  24. This article is 100% wrong. If you go to the Planning Department website – which is in fact LINKED in this article (WTF?) It is very clear that the areas marked in blue are areas where developers will be given incentives that equate to adding more units than the zone allows if they create a certain LARGE percentage of VERY affordable housing. The purple denotes Neighborhood Commercial Districts. It has nothing to do with anyone tearing your house down. This is total bullshit & I’m super pissed that I shared it all over the place before I bothered to go to the stupid planning website & type in the name of the stupid program which took all of 10 seconds to do.

  25. Zoning and permitting are two completely different things in SF. Just because something is allowed by zoning doesn’t mean you can build it. The anti development crowd can still block you during planning, permitting, discretionary review, appeal to the board of supervisors, ballot initiative, and probably some other appeals processes I’m leaving out. Zoning is just the first hurdle in what is typically a multi-year process. Demolition permits are next to impossible to get. Even if you have a structure that is literally falling down.

  26. “It’s virtually impossible to get a demolition permit.”

    Isn’t that why they’re calling for mass zoning change? To allow what currently isn’t permitted?

  27. People like me who are realistic?

    You truly believe developers are rushing to build this stuff so everyone gets a rent reduction or that demand for single family houses will decrease? Doesn’t work like that.

    Are you aware that new development can stimulate a market?

    What happened in NYC when there was a surplus of new development nobody liked? Was it suddenly cheaper for New Yorkers, and did working families stop getting displaced? Not enough to matter. Did property values decrease to reflect median incomes? Here’s a spoiler, the Broooklyn townhouses in neglected areas tripled and quadrupled, and there are waiting lists to get into subsidized home.

    Sure, build. Don’t destroy the old, beautiful, functional city to do it, and stop trying to dupe people, as if being in the pocket of developers is for the downtrodden.

  28. “Well off people” have been living in Oakland the entire time. Never heard of the Oakland Hills? It’s not all East Oakland, but if it were, you would 20 years too late having this conversation. People used to pick living in Oakland over the Sunset or Visitation Valley.

    And Oakland’s recent boom has coincided with the boom in new development, both in SF and Oakland…. so clearly one doesn’t ward off the other.

  29. I disagree. Pointing at a map and suggesting better uses for properties is the first step in eminent domain, but I’m not suggesting it will be that direct, but they will find ways to force compliance.

  30. Traffic is such a clusterfuck that buses are not the solution, unless cars are banned and we have bus rights-of-way. I prefer light rail with right of way and building new, denser neighborhoods, like many other cities have done.

    Traffic-wise, we have exceeded capacity on many eastern and northeastern neighborhoods and the approved Warriors area will impact the entire sector in traffic and parking. And it isn’t just a quality of life issue, for time spent. Increased traffic = increased air pollution and that is a lawsuit waiting to happen.

    No, we need to geographically distribute population density before we increase the density in the most densely populated neighborhoods in the city.

  31. Demolished units might be affordable, they might not. Tim likes to try and count every rent controlled unit demolished as affordable, but thats not actually the case, is it? Especially with a turnover rate of 15%, within 20 years, very few of those units will still be affordable, because they will snap to emergency shortage market rate prices – as required by state law. No amount of head in the sand whining will change that. Going and shouting “down with wiener” at the DCCC or shutting down planning commission meetings won’t change that. #PesKim making promises they cant keep wont change that.. SO, reasonable, practical people make a real plan. The reconstructed BMR units will be locked in as affordable to the Area Median Incomes. Really, the first time I saw affordable housing advocates in this town viciously attacking BMR units was in the People Power Media article. It is a pretty clear indication that the affordable non-profits have been coopted by the NIMBYs.

    Let me be clear, I support the right of return if we can get it, or at least the right of “shuffle” where you would get some type of BMR unit somewhere as close as possible right away. Why not work harder on that specific issue than start to attack the entire program?

  32. Expanding bus service in the dense parts of the city is actually less expensive than in the outer neighborhoods parts, because dense neighborhoods can support the cost of the service through fares even at off peak hours, where suburban bus service is subsidized where it is frequent but with low ridership. Also, expanding bus service on all but the highest ridership lines during peak commute, is basically just a matter of hiring more drivers and buying more busses. There is no bus crowding issue except on Market, Van Ness, and Geary, maybe a few others. bus crowding on Market could be alleviated by running more busses straight into SOMA and then down Mission, Howard, Folsom, etc.

  33. Do you have some further information about the study that show it assumes land prices don’t go up, or are you just making this up? Link please, with your quote.

  34. This whole article and comment section is like watching a Trump rally. Trump (or in this case, Tim) spouts a bunch of lies and half truths, and sheeple don’t bother doing any research or fact checking or thinking — instead they just amplify the lies with lies of their own.

    The zoomed in maps are completely misleading. Look at the real map.
    “Building a bigger building” is not just cause for eviction. This will not lead to mass evictions.
    Demolition of rent controlled units will not happen. It’s virtually impossible to get a demolition permit.

    Owners will not be forced to redevelop.
    Stopping construction of office space will not bring down housing prices. It will make office space more expensive — tech companies will be able to afford it. Nonprofits and small businesses will not.

    There is one building in the Mission actually going for the height bonus already. ONE. It is a 100% affordable building for seniors. Displaces no one. Adds 80-90 permanently affordable homes for seniors near Chavez. Probably blocks some views for owners of $1M+ homes in Bernal (you know, like what Tims owns). Guess what? He’s written an article condemning that development.

  35. If you think the city is really going to create affordable housing you’re crazy. Its all a hoax. I’ve watched it for decades.South of Market was supposed to be affordable housing, how did that turn out? So was Geary’s development. Politicians lie, esp this one. He wants no height limits on buildings anywhere so the whole city feel and look is destroyed, its just highrise boxes everywhere…like Shanghai which he said out loud he wanted to do. Our village is ruined because Apple and Google want more housing? Do you really want twice the number of people living here now so traffic and congestion double (which by the way they have no plan in place to accommodate more people with MUNI). This will be a little Manhattan and a great city will be killed off by the perpetual need for growth. The city is 7 miles by 7 miles, it can only grow UP. Take a good long look at the financial district, thats what our Mayor has in mind for the whole city.

  36. Rezoning and redevelopment are two entirely different things, and any attempt to conflate them is not a serious discussion. Nobody is talking about using eminent domain here.

  37. Yes, people buy what they can afford. And they can afford quite a bit. So if there’s nothing they can afford Berlin the neighborhood they want to live in, they will simply go to YOUR neighborhood instead and buy up the real estate there until it becomes unaffordable.

    Which is exactly what happened in Oakland: you wanted well off people to gentrify Oakland, affecting middle class people there because you didn’t want well off people moving to new buildings in SF.

  38. There is no reason property values should increase faster than median incomes unless there is some kind of artificial barrier that is constricting supply. And that artificial barrier is people like you.

  39. It’s pretty clear we’re getting new housing. Plenty of projects in the pipeline.This isn’t about new housing, this is about what we do with old housing, and turning zoning and planning on it’s side.

    The goal of developers is what? To make profits. To sustain and capitalize off a sky high market. Even when they’re building so called affordable units, it’s still not government made housing. Incentivizing previously untouchable properties for this purpose, accelerating the pace of the market and a new wave of construction evictions, does call into question what’s happening here.

  40. The study assumes current sale prices for the next 20 years: clearly if they rise, more parcels will be worth developing. The study includes land costs as part of the developer’s expense; that does not account for long-term owners who develop themselves and thus don’t have to bear the land costs. The 240 parcels you mention is a best-case scenario.

    As this article points out, units demolished are not accounted for in the graph.

  41. Yeah, that’s actually not how it works. People buy what they can afford, and like.

    And if you’re talking about people modernizing a Victorian that’s pretty different than people tearing it down, and developing it into 20 units of condos. Those 20 units will do nothing as a deterrent from the next developer buying an Edwardian on the same block and then doing the same thing. Those 40 new units will not make the homes across the street any cheaper, unless we’re talking about factoring in new development as blight.

  42. Huh?

    People buy older homes in SF because they appreciate them, not because they had no alternative. Likewise, some people prefer brand new, suburbs, or renovate. That personal preference isn’t the issue here, you do realize, right?

    Recognizing Oakland is a worthwhile alternative to SF isn’t really championing displacement. Nice try.

  43. Establishing transit hubs is a great thing and I think we should focus upon “mini-hubs” in the denser core and massive hubs outside dense areas to stimulate greater density. But anything other than a mini hub will be costly to implement in our existing high-density neighborhoods. Creating new and successful transit hubs in lower-density neighborhoods, combined with intelligent zoning (and arm twisting when needed) will increasing the density AND, with proper investment, would create new, vibrant neighborhoods.

    Pull your head out of your textbook.

  44. You actually got this completely backwards. Any freshman student of urban design will inform you, that on virtually all metrics, increasing density, sometimes hugely, around transit hubs and transit lines, where land tends to be more valuable, makes a lot of sense. Jeesh.

  45. Someone will always have a home for sale somewhere in your neighborhood or in Oakland. And they will buy those homes rather than anything new because they have no alternative.

    Lots of people would like to live in a new building in SF. But since those don’t exist, they will move to Oakland. The question is why you hate Oaklanders so much that you want professionals to displace current residents of Oakland.

  46. Lack of new construction means that people who would have been choosing between different types of new construction will just end up buying your old construction and renovating it.

    Give me a choice between several new units, I might choose one. Give me NO new units to choose from, then I will simply buy yours.

  47. Property Values will always increase.

    Adding units does not typically bring values down. New construction competes with other new constructions.

  48. Nothing new though. Oakland and the rest already saw huge increases too, and for good reason. Then again, Oakland always had some prime real estate.

    The difference here is if someone with lots of money wants your home, the owner has to decide they want to sell. Redevelopment and rezonings have historically worked very differently.

  49. How nice of you to decide that no one else should be allowed to move in to SF at a price they can afford, like you did.

  50. You tyro are an idiot. I am a renter having lived in the same apt for 25 yrs in Noe. you might want to start educating yourself instead of using sound bytes for your “knowledge”

  51. Even fewer people trust the system that has displaced so many citizens and is decimating the small business communities

    That’s funny because the people who complain the loudest about “the system” enabling developers are rich property owners sitting on $1.5 million homes who don’t want other people to move to the city and don’t want new comers to have options other than holding a bidding war over the homeowners’ houses.

  52. You’re another greedy, greedy person thinking “money, money, money” with your home value hoping that a construction ban will make you ever richer in your house that you e had for 44 years, hoping for a huge bidding war on houses because none others are available.

  53. Construction restrictions have made existing home owners a LOT richer. So rich, in fact, that average people can’t afford to buy houses in SF any more. Why should I care what some wealthy home owner in SF thinks, when all he’s trying to do is create an intentional housing shortage so he can boost up the value of his real estate even more?

  54. SF can go the Detroit route and simply make the city a place no one wants to live in or move to. That would solve the problem quite well.

  55. But this is true. In the absence of new construction, someone with lots of money to spend is going to decide he wants to live in YOUR home and will buy it, evict you, and move in.

    People would RATHER live in SF than Oakland, but in the absence of available housing in SF, they start buying up real estate in Oakland.

  56. What you seem to be worried about is that other people will not be able to see a rapid increase in their property values because demand will have leveled off given the additional capacity.

  57. Your reply amounts to “It’s not going to happen, but when it does, say thank you”.

    Your assumption that every property owner , bullied and regulated into redeveloping beautiful SF neighborhoods so they’re transformed into something you think is more useful, making 10x more profit, is not just naive, it’s gross. At what cost? At whose expense? Hands off our city.

    Who is Marc?

  58. What is idiotic is NOT building housing to meet the ever increasing demand and expect that displacement of the poor won’t happen. That’s idiotic on a grand scale.

  59. The private sector and our public servants have proven themselves incompetent at providing basic human needs of food, shelter, healthcare, education, and transportation to the general public at a reasonable price. I recommend rent strikes, boycotts, and the occupation of public officials offices until they get the picture.

    Community Sings Xmas Carols To Ed Lee: http://sco.lt/88BN1l

    Midtown Apartment Residents Rent Strike: http://sco.lt/5M1vgf

  60. “In earlier discussions, Planning talked about requiring that rent-controlled units be replaced with new rent-controlled units. That’s not going to work: State law bars rent control in buildings constructed after 1979, and besides, unless the city found a way to ensure that the new units were rented at the same rent as the old ones (again, state law doesn’t allow that) the new units would start off at market rate.”

    There is a State Law specifically requiring this. .


  61. To begin with NO, single family homes should be allowed to be demolished. The Westside neighborhoods do not want or need any more residents. The City does nor need anymore Vertical Sprawl. The current housing dilemma should make it clear that the “private sector,” cannot provide for the needs of the general public; only for select individuals who have a lot of money. All human needs should be guaranteed by the government; housing, healthcare, food, education, and transportation. The private sector can take care of the rest.

  62. This blog is really the limit. The last post I read said something about the “housing affordability crisis the developers claim SF is experiencing.” It’s an echo of the most blinkered activism of a long-ago era in urban planning. Any project meant to increase affordable housing is really a trick by developers, so therefore we must build no new housing anywhere.

  63. like I said, no one will be required to sell their house as part of the AHBP. I guess in Marc’s mind, a person who decides to sell their house for 10x what they paid for it because I suggested it might be a better use of space is a victim, but uh…

  64. Well plenty of progressive groups will push hard for this, and truly believe in a city with rows of concrete slab buildings with enough housing for all, once the market is finally leveled. Their idea of community is a bit distorted.

  65. Well, its the good of the developer, disguised as “the good of the community is more important than the good of the individual”.
    In a situation where possibly tens of thousands rent controlled units are destroyed and the tenants displaced, the good of the existing community is being sacrificed for the good of future community potential.

  66. Bingo. The average homeowner will not be able to take a construction loan, pay the Planning Department their overtime, hire facilitators, donate to politicians, and generally take on the role of developer, and destroy the very home/property they fell in love with, all just to stay afloat.

    The problem is to make this whole ruse work, there are people expecting certain block and lot numbers will get transformed, and we can guess there will be pressures to build, or sell, or get taxed, or deal with obstructionists and their visions for how others will live. Developers will get a fire sale, and if renters are involved, they will have no stability.

  67. Our horrible Mayor is sounding like Scott Walker in Wisconsin. He has already publicly stated he wants to turn SF into Shanghai – High Rise Hell. He doesn’t love San Francisco, he loves money, period. Just like many of the posters here. And they always talk about affordable housing but when its built its not affordable. He’s already under investigation for kick backs. he’s a crook. He never should have been re-elected. When are you people gonna wake up and realize that big business is our new govt, and you can be damn sure of it when things like public disclosure and hearings are won’t be required for this kind of scam. I’ve lived here 44 years. It makes me sick.

  68. As a crisis response to the supposed housing crisis, a crisis that has long-time residents being evicted or priced-out of their apartments, I agree that the highest priority should be to preserve rent controlled units.

  69. No, they’ll just be forced to comply with community standards, and pressured by expectations from groups headed by people like yourself who don’t think the current SF is “useful”, and when they can’t…. they’ll have to sell.

    Don’t pretend you support the idea of keeping SF as is.

  70. What about blaming Tim for saying things like preserving existing rent-controlled housing should be the number one planning priority? Because that’s what I read.

    But then, I haven’t been in the Bay Area since the 1990’s like some, so maybe I’m not entitled to read the same words as “long time” residents.

  71. Even if they were putting in 100% affordable housing, the possible displacement of thousands to achieve this goal is just backwards thinking.

  72. But if they bring in more rent, how will that equal affordable rent? Without rent control on these units, most will rent a market rate after the first year.

  73. Personally, I’m skeptical about how affordable these units will be. And if there is no rent control, there is nothing to prevent the developer/landlords from raising the rents sky-high.

  74. the new affordable units will be income/deed restricted based on area median income. They cant just jack up the prices however they want. Rent control buildings snap back to market rate any time someone moves out. These new units will remain income restricted.

  75. First of all, I’m skeptical about how affordable these units will be. Without rent control the developer can jack the rents up, without limit. At the very least, the rent control law should be changed to include units built after 1979, so we don’t end up with a lot of apartments that aren’t affordable.

    As to wanting to preserve the charm and character of SF, I plead guilty.

    Oh, and those 60’s era activists that you deride prevented a freeway from being built through GG Park, among other misguided ventures.

  76. If you actually read about the program, you see that it is expected to affect 240 parcels in the next 20 years. That comes out to one building, per square mile, every 4 years.

    Most of them would be developed anyway, just with less affordable housing. The vast majority are surface parking lots or gas stations.

    The economics of this just aren’t as scary as 48 Hills would have you think. I’d encourage everyone to read the actual proposal.

  77. i think it’s worth losing the beauty of the old homes if all new construction required solar, hot water on demand, gray water and/or composting toilets, radiant floor heating, etc.—planet earth is running out of fresh water. we need to consider this in all future building.

  78. “Market forces” are there to make rich people richer. Developers are not in that business to build to people who will pay less. They are there to build for people who will pay more.

  79. the city needs to ask for volunteers to sell their homes for 300% of the market rate. if i were a homeowner in, for example, some gang invested part of SF, and the market rate of my home is $800k, the city can pay me $2.4 million and i’ll find a gorgeous mini-mansion in a safe neighborhood in another state for my family….no homeowner should give up there home to the city for under 300% of market rate.

  80. That’s just it. They’re hoping to stimulate a land grab, so developers and the city benefit from the windfall of the situation they created. We’re all going to focus on things like rent control, but the property owners will get bullied as well.

  81. Some will foolishly support this under the belief it will force a citywide rent control.

    What will result is either a watered down faux version of rent control, or owners of income properties forced to redevelop (or sell to a developer) not out of desire, but because the economics mandate it.

  82. If it’s supply vs demand, and housing is worth more, plus there are more incentives, then you already have your deterrent.

    How long before we need to freeze residential from an over abundance, or we have to promote building office space to keep companies from having to relocate outside the city, when they need to expand, with all the ripples that would cause?

    It’s a tap dance we as citizens aren’t qualified to do, and apparently neither are the buffoons at the city.

  83. Another difficulty with tearing down existing housing built before 1979, is that the new units will not be subject to rent control, under our current rent control laws. In order for all this re-development to create more affordable housing, the law would have to be change so that all housing is rent controlled.

    In those new apartment buildings that are going up on Market street and elsewhere, the landlords are jacking up the rent after the first year, and some tenants are facing double and triple the rent they were paying or eviction. Unless there is a provision to change the law, the re-development would be nothing other than a boon for developers.

  84. This dinosaur doesn’t mind new units but I do mind wholesale re-development that would drastically change the character of our neighborhoods without citizen input and with no aesthetic criteria. Almost all of the new housing that I’ve seen, that were built in the last few years are mediocre at best, really ugly at worst and don’t relate to the environment.

  85. One of the many problems with this approach, is that the character of our neighborhoods would change for the worse, architecturally. The modern housing that’s being built downtown and on the Market Street corridor is mediocre at best, ugly at worst and it doesn’t fit in with the elegant beauty of SF. While modern architecture can be fabulous, that’s not what we’re getting. Next time you go to Whole Foods on Market Street, take a look at the new building across the street on Dolores, the one that looks like a deconstructed shipping container, before you buy into the idea that the developers who are buying up land SF, have our atheistic interests at heart.

  86. My understanding is that through the deal Trinity offered leases with rent control written into them. Anyone can craft custom rent increase agreements into a lease. The Trinity units are not automatically part of the SF rent control program, and nor will be units built under this new program.

  87. What if you don’t want to live in a Condo or new construction, at all?

    You’re still stuck on this idea that if you give the new transplant the option to buy or rent in the shiny box, it removes them from the market for old homes, rent controlled apartment buildings, etc.

    Not only is that misguided, but we’re having a different conversation here. This is about removing the old homes, and rent controlled apartments from the market, not by OMI or new money transplants, but to build more shiny boxes in a sick Donald Trump meets Communism fantasy.

  88. 48 Hills, and the old 1960s era activist dinosaurs who actually believe the bunk published here, will NEVER support a solution to our housing crisis that actually adds units. You see, the vast majority of these people are actually homeowners or rent controlled tenants and there are very big advantages for them in restricting the market and making it very difficult for anyone new, or anyone poor, to live here. They portray themselves as progressives, but they are the ultimate conservatives.

  89. Your Supervisor cannot protect you. If you want protection buy your home. If you cannot afford to buy a home, support policies and politicians who support the construction of new units. If your housing security is subject to the whims of the market, you better hope that the market is in balance, and that there’s enough supply to meet demand, otherwise there will always be someone with more money than you jealously eyeing your apartment. Sorry, that’s just how the world works.

  90. Blaming Tim for rent control when he didn’t even live in San Francisco when rent control was implemented is rich. But don’t let facts get in the way of your delusions.

  91. When will Tim and Calvin wake up and understand that market forces beat rent control every time. If you refuse to build sufficient housing to meet a huge demand the people with the most money will always force out the people with the least. By clinging to rent control and a zero growth policy, Tim, Calvin, and the rest of the pseudo progressive neo-cons in San Francisco have done more to exacerbate displacement than any redevelopment agency, evil developer, or tech overlord could ever hope to accomplish. YOU ARE TO BLAME for this mess.

  92. @DatBus – Yes, Agenda 21 is on the U.N.’s website and it has absolutely nothing to do with colonizing Western countries with Muslims. It has everything to do with a tinfoil shortage, though.

  93. I support the Affordable Housing Bonus Program and hope the displacement concerns are adequately addressed – we need the housing.

  94. Another way to slow evictions is to STOP all development of office space. It is always a supply vs demand issue and we only focus upon the supply to solve problems. If this is truly a housing crisis, we need to choke the demand until something can be done.

  95. The only way to stop evictions is to provide more options for individuals looking to purchase a newly constructed condo vs purchasing a two or three unit building taking those rent controlled units out of the supply through Ellis Act or OMI Evictions then afterwards remodeling those units into their own personal dwelling. Foginacan how do you propose preventing the loss of rent controlled units in the city when we cannot stop demand during our 10 year economic expansion of the Bay Area?? BTW we are in year number four of this particular economic expansion.

  96. Unprecedented rezoning allowing for tear downs, and development far beyond what’s been allowed thus far is all about sustaining protected units, how exactly?
    Plot twist; tear downs, and conversions are worse than a OMI eviction. Unless the building is collapsing, protected tenancy should block it, but with this plan, you could remove rent control apartments under the guise of replacing them with affordable housing. Someone’s life is still getting disrupted.

    The point of this is profit for the city, developers, unions, etc. not stopping evictions.

  97. Like what? The plan itself is based on a crass broad brush stroke to create a free for all, rather than simply loosening zoning restrictions. If a developer claims they’re putting in 100% affordable housing, they can have an unprecedented free pass.

  98. Agree with most of that, but again, what scares me is where all this meets with the “build, baby build” crowd, and the progressive idea that the good of the community is more important than the good of the individual. Add in a total disinterest in preservation, and this is very scary legislation that goes beyond transforming the city, and straight into the territory of ruining lives.

  99. hiker_sf then what is your plan to stop the erosion of rent controlled supply by OMI Evictions?????? No one not even the President of the United States can stop people from moving to SF.

  100. This article is full of factual errors meant to upset the public. I encourage readers to seek other sources of information before forming an opinion.

  101. “That was a swap for a lot of variances and other benefits that the developer desperately wanted.” And isn’t that what the Affordable Housing Density Bonus plan is proposed to do?

    PS: the answer is yes.

  102. “In earlier discussions, Planning talked about requiring that rent-controlled units be replaced with new rent-controlled units. That’s not going to work: State law bars rent control in buildings constructed after 1979”

    That is a wrong statement since Trinity Place replaced the old rent controlled housing with newly built rent controlled housing (the first building). http://www.bizjournals.com/sanfrancisco/stories/2010/01/11/daily84.html

    Tim wants to guide the misinformed readers into his fold.

  103. This plan is an end-run around democracy. Those who are sincere about smart growth have not come forward with a cogent plan and vision, which allows plans like this – which will have the end result of making SF into more of a wealthy enclave than it is now. Of course, Mayor Conway isn’t sincere about smart growth.

    And there will be those who tout that a densely populated wealthy enclave is better for the environment. Of course they don’t give a shit about how poor/middle class people don’t have the bucks to buy healthy organic foods at Whole Foods, drive environmentally better hybrids because they cost too much, etc.

    “Environmentally good” is now becoming something reserved for the wealthy.

  104. It’s not just talk – its posted on the UN’s website. Muslims being placed into Western countries is part of it. It’s usually framed with lots of feelgood, environmentally sound, multicultural language. How could any good liberal say no? The plan is to ultimately remove the United State’s autonomy. They are serious and it is absolutely happening. And we should stop it now.

  105. As crazy as most Agenda 21 talk is, it’s hard not to see parallels with this as a so called solution, and the general perversion of a political ideology.

  106. Thanks for attempting to explain the details of one of the least known or understood ideas coming out of the Planning Department, or, should we call it “the Permitting Department”? The details of the plan are many and appear to be in a constant state of flux as staff works to amend the plan into a form Planning Commissioners and Supervisors will support.

    Everyone says they want more affordable housing, but few people agree on how to achieve that goal. The present plan (there are a number of plans) to incentivize developers to build higher, denser, smaller, more crowded housing units, appears to be one of the least popular ideas among the people who need affordable housing. This is hardly surprising since the plan was devised by developers for developers, and many feel they don’t need any incentives to build more dense housing. Even fewer people trust the system that has displaced so many citizens and is decimating the small business communities.

    People should contact their Supervisors and ask them to explain how this plan will protect them. We have heard a lot from the planners, now the public deserves an audience. We need a big public debate at a city-wide televised town hall where everyone who wants to speak gets their two or three minutes on stage. The public needs to let officials know what their response will be to any unpopular actions. All the candidates preparing to run for office should be called upon to take a stand on this important issue, as it will be a huge factor in the next round of elections.

  107. This sounds like part of the UN’s “agenda 21” environmental plan. Basically the UN has been allowed to re-colonize the United States. It is a longterm plan and it’s scope will astound you. And thanks to our politicians American citizens have no say in this process.

  108. Isn’t that the biggest problem with this plan? What stops someone from saying “your single family house is a poor use of space, it should be concrete housing, like cold war Russia, so it can house 50 people instead, at rent control prices, so everyone can enjoy this city fairly”?

  109. I really wish 48 Hills would do a story about the kind of comprehensive package of policy initiatives it thinks the city should pursue. Almost every story is “This is why this thing is terrible for the city!” but there’s very little about what good alternatives are out there…other than rhetorically asking whether or not we can stop allowing Cupertino to expand Apple’s offices. Power People Media calls for using the $310 bond to buy sites on the westside for 100% affordable housing. I’m not against that, but it just won’t get us very far. It also does basically nothing to disincentive the wave of evictions that residents in rent control housing stock currently face.This program is trying to incentive developers to incorporate more affordable housing as they build. It’s not perfect (I, for example, hate that it provide for any new housing in West of Twin Peaks), but its better than nothing.

    What happens to the folks who get displaced and need relocation is important, but that issue shouldn’t be conflated with whether or not this program will increase the net number of affordable units. Calling this a program that benefits the future over the present also diminishes the fact that folks in rent control are already pretty vulnerable to eviction as it is. I agree that rent controlled housing it’s very important, but with Ellis Act evictions as an escape hatch, it’s really been neutered. This program provides Ellis Act Condo-converters with a possible alternative that prevents the loss of affordable housing.

    The example of the house in the Castro is a little disingenuous. Especially used as evidence to suggest that this is a market rate density program. That three unit building could just as easily have been a two unit going up to four stories with 8 total units (Or a one unit going to three stories and 6-7 units), which would require some new units to be affordable. You may not think one new affordable unit is worth the downside, but it’s unfair to use that kind of straw man.

    I also think its unfair to diminish the net affordable units generated on undeveloped sites/empty lots. There are dozens of empty lots in the SE corner of the city alone. I walk past them every day. None of the new buildings have really any affordable requirement other than the 12% inclusionary requirement. AHDB program could get us more actual affordable on site units.

    Implicit in this article is the idea that either 1) this program will do nothing or 2) it will result in the mass demolition of rent controlled housing stock. Realistically, some of what you describe will take place, and every effort should be made to mitigate that. But some of the positive will occur too and if designed properly, it will outweigh the negative.

  110. Increasing population density in the most densely populated parts of the city, where creating/modifying infrastructure such as pubic transportation will be MOST EXPENSIVE is just idiotic.

    But then, the real objective isn’t to meet the mayor’s pretend BMR housing goals. It is to enrich property owners, developers and easily bribed politicians at the expense of San Francisco’s non-wealthy citizens and ultimately San Francisco’s character.

    This is a new low for the mayor. I suggest a recall campaign and a loud protest at the Planning Commission meeting.

    This plan is a declaration of war.

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